Potato farmer Jack Jones decided to grow grapes
– and the rest is history
Jones of Washington Winery now produces award-winning wines
from grapes grown in the Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes AVAs.
By Sebastian Moraga
If you ask Victor Palencia, there’s no magic to making good wine.
“The quality is always going to go back to the land,” he said.
And Palencia should know. In addition to having a long-standing passion for the fruit of the vine, he’s the winemaker for Jones of Washington and has been for a dozen years.
“Wine is an art form, an artistic way of expression,” he said. “I love every aspect of it.”
Palencia takes no credit for the quality of Jones of Washington’s wines, saying that the soil of the Central Washington region where Jones of Washington grows its grapes, deserves the kudos for the great wines.
“With Jones, the identity of the wines, the style of the wines, is actually driven by the land, the vineyards. That’s what makes the wines so unique,” Palencia said.
With our region’s wines becoming better known, the challenge for a winemaker at a winery of the stature of Jones of Washington is to rise to the standard set by the land itself, he said.
Allan Williams, head of sales and marketing for Jones of Washington, agreed, saying that the goal for Jones of Washington is not to outdo everyone else, just to be better than Jones of Washington was the year before. “We are always looking at who we are as a winery and what we can do different and better,” Williams said.
Known today for its namesake wines, the Jones Family also has a well-earned reputation, stretching back decades, for growing other bountiful crops in the Quincy area and Columbia Basin.
In the early 1950s, W.E. (Web) and Millie Jones began farming potatoes, just as the “spigot” was turned on releasing water from Grand Coulee Dam via canals to the Columbia Basin, which was part of the largest water reclamation project in the United States. Quincy had long been home to sandy soils, but scant annual rainfall made it virtually impossible to grow crops. What were once arid and dry lands were quickly transformed into an oasis.
The Jones’ first farmlands were east of the town of George and north of what is now Interstate-90. Potatoes were sold from the community of Winchester, located just east of Quincy.
Over the next few decades the family operation, led by son Jack Jones, grew corn, beans, onions, apples and several other crops in addition to potatoes. As others began farming in the area, the Columbia Basin evolved into one of the most productive and diverse growing areas in the entire United States.
Always looking for new challenges, Jack entered the world of viticulture in 1997. He designed and planted various vineyards in the Wahluke Slope Appellation, and the first grapes Jones sold were to a large western Washington winery looking to expand production. It was clear to Jack, that with such quality estate grapes available, he should create a start-up boutique winery. Thus, in 2001 Jones of Washington was born and the winery released its first wine, a 2001 Merlot in 2003.
The timing was good — Jack’s diversification into vineyards came just as the Columbia Basin was gaining itself a reputation as one of the best wine grape locations in the nation. Since then the Jones Family has gone on to establish vineyards in and around the Ancient Lakes Appellation near Quincy, which has become home to many of Jones of Washington’s award-winning white wines.
Today, the Jones Family owns several vineyards in the Quincy and Mattawa areas and co-owns a Mattawa bulk wine producing company, J & S Crushing, which was started in 2008. The family also continues to harvest many row crops. Unfortunately, Jack died in 2015, but the business he built is still going strong.
This year, the new grape on the block is Grenache, a red grape also known as Garnacha in some areas of Spain. “It’s in the barrel right now,” Williams said. “It will be our first Grenache, but probably won’t be released until 2022.”
Williams said he tried some of the Grenache right before it went into the barrel, about six months ago. “I was blown away with what Victor was doing,” said Williams.
It’s not just the new wine that is blowing people away, however. Some of the established varietals have also managed to attract attention. Back in 2008, Jones of Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignon won the title of “Best Cabernet in the State Under $20,” at the Washington Wine Awards.
“That’s the one that really got people’s attention,” Williams said. “It’s our largest production wine, the wine we make the most of and sell the most of.” Among whites, the flagship wine is the Pinot Gris. “Our wines are very true to their varietal,” Williams added, highlighting their balance as the trademark of a glass of Jones of Washington wine.
When compared to California wineries, Jones of Washington, and Washington itself remains leaps and bounds behind the Golden State in terms of production. But catching up to California in terms of production is not the goal. The goal is to be an equal to California in the quality of wines, Palencia said. That’s why he welcomes with open arms the sight of more and more wineries sprouting across the Evergreen State. The more wineries making good wine, the better for the reputation of Washington as a winemaking state, he said.
Williams said that when it comes to making good wine, Jones of Washington definitely has the right man for the job. “Victor makes the wines he thinks are the best example of that wine he can make,” he said. “He is trying with every wine to make it the best wine he can.”
And if we talk about representing the state of Washington with good wine, what better example than a winery with the state’s name on it. The founders of Jones of Washington wanted to differentiate themselves from a business named Jones of California, so they added the state’s name to their brand. It worked, to a point. “People ask us if we are related to the (Seattle-based) Jones Soda people,” Williams said. (They are not.)
What began with some Syrahs and some Merlots has become a steady production of some 17 wines, including two different Chardonnays, a late-harvest Viognier, a Pinot Gris, a Riesling, a Sauvignon Blanc, a white blend, a red blend, a Cabernet, a Merlot, a Sangiovese, a Cab Franc, a Barrel Select (another red blend), another Viognier, a Syrah, a Reserve Cabernet, a Malbec, a Carménère and a Petit Syrah. All are distributed in a handful of states from Jones of Washington’s production facility in Mattawa.
Back in the early days, Jones had a tasting room located in a small corner of the winery’s warehouse. Today, they have tasting rooms in the Quincy Public Market and the Pybus Public Market located in Wenatchee. The clientele of the Quincy tasting room is an even mix of locals and tourists, while most of the traffic at Pybus Market is local.
Williams says there might be more tasting rooms in the future. The future tasting rooms will be in Washington and, if possible, within a reasonable distance of the winery’s Quincy offices.
The Washington wine industry, almost embryonic 20 years ago, is established and here to stay, thanks in part to the great winemaking climate, but also to the great camaraderie among winemakers and viticulturists. So it should be no surprise that Jones of Washington is thinking expansion.
“It’s a really fun industry to be in and everybody is really supportive of one another,” Williams said.
Palencia agreed, saying he knows that every new winery carries in its bottles a piece of someone’s story and someone’s dream.
Jones of Washington’s Quincy tasting room is located in Grant County at the Quincy Public Market, 1004 F Street S.W. Quincy, WA 98848. Phone: (509) 787-8108. And their Wenatchee tasting room is located in the Pybus Public Market at 7 N. Worthen St., Wenatchee, WA 98801. Phone: (509) 888-0809.
If you can’t get to either tasting room, you can order all of Jones of Washington’s wines from their online store at: www.jonesofwashington.com. Or, you can call either of their tasting rooms to order wine and have it delivered.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Many Washington wine enthusiasts also know Victor Palencia as the owner/winemaker of two of his own wine brands – Palencia Winery and Monarcha Winery. With the blessing of the Jones of Washington family, he launched Palencia Winery in 2013 at an incubator facility at the Walla Walla Airport. In 2018, he opened a tasting room for Palencia Winery and his second label, Monarcha Winery, in the Columbia Gardens Wine Village in Kennewick, WA. And in 2019, he opened a second tasting room featuring both Palencia and Monarcha wines in West Richland, WA, called Bodega Palencia.